My Cooker Wants To Kill Me
May 4, 2013 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Why is my oven crackling and sparking at the on/off switch and will it start a fire in my wall?

I have an electric oven that has a red on/off switch next to it on the wall. The switch has a white base (like light switches have). When I turn on the switch and then the oven, there is a crackling sound and sparks can be seen under the white base of the switch. Since it's the weekend and Monday is a bank holiday, I'm assuming the landlord will take until at least Tuesday to get someone in to look at it. Is it safe to use in the meantime, as long as I don't leave it on unattended, or am I just asking for electrocution/fire? Is it something that can be a DIY fix?
posted by fruitopia to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: No it is not safe. Do not use the switch or the oven and turn off that circuit breaker at the distribution panel.
posted by ryanrs at 12:15 PM on May 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Call your management company's emergency maintenance line and are you serious no don't use it good lord. Unplug it and the landlord needs an electrician in there today, this is absolutely the definition of a 24/7 maintenance emergency.
posted by kavasa at 12:15 PM on May 4, 2013

Best answer: There's a short in it. Please don't use it.
posted by theora55 at 12:17 PM on May 4, 2013

Best answer: Also make sure your landlord sends over an actual licensed electrician, not some random handyman. A wall switch controlling an electric stove is super-shady shit. Like, burn-down-your-house-and-void-your-insurance level bullshit.
posted by ryanrs at 12:23 PM on May 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: That's a pretty weird arrangement, with the oven tied to a wall switch. There's definitely a short in the switch, though, and you should absolutely avoid using it.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:24 PM on May 4, 2013

Response by poster: Seems to be a pretty resounding "NO" to using it or trying to DIY it! We've turned off the switch and the breaker. Called the landlord, and he can't get anyone in until Monday, because, hey, this is rural Ireland and the Irish are a law unto themselves (one time, in our old place, the water tank in the apartment above us broke and water came in through the ceiling and flooded our house. Repeatedly, since the tank just kept trying to refill. That landlord couldn't get a plumber in for an entire day. And then the plumber stepped through our ceiling. 'Tis a magical place, Ireland is!).

Thanks everyone for your speed in answering! We'll keep the cooker off and the smoke detectors' batteries charged!
posted by fruitopia at 12:34 PM on May 4, 2013

Now that the breaker is shut off there isn't any danger.

ryanrs: "A wall switch controlling an electric stove is super-shady shit. Like, burn-down-your-house-and-void-your-insurance level bullshit."

It's unusual (at least around here) but there is no reason it couldn't be done safely. Switches that would handle the current and essentially look the same as a regular switch are commonly available in the USA/Canada; I install them all the time. I'd guess the same is true in Ireland where they have more power available generally.
posted by Mitheral at 12:41 PM on May 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I was speaking from US experience, perhaps it's less weird in Ireland.

I didn't mean to imply that it could not be done safely. But it would be a pretty unusual setup. Unusual electrical setups can be done safely. But the dangerous failure described in the question, in conjunction with unusual wiring, sets off alarm bells in my head.
posted by ryanrs at 12:48 PM on May 4, 2013

I once plugged a hot air popcorn popper into a shorted out outlet at my parents' house (they helpfully told me about it afterwards!). It was a very unusual and not recommended experience. I saw the light behind the cover and heard the crackling and my arm went numb and i couldn't let go of the plug. I only managed to stop being electrocuted by stepping back which unplugged the popper. It took several hours before my arm felt okay. I can only assume the current never travelled across my heart or I could have died.

So don't mess around with this and don't leave it so anyone else can inadvertently be affected by it.
posted by srboisvert at 1:36 PM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

"It's unusual (at least around here) but there is no reason it couldn't be done safely."
"Yeah, I was speaking from US experience, perhaps it's less weird in Ireland."
It's pretty typical in Aus*, & I believe the UK. Wouldn't be at all surprised if it was also common in other Commonwealth countries, at least the 240v ones.

(* It's certainly standard in older homes, though it looks like the current AS/NZS 3000 requires it only for a "fixed or stationary cooking appliance having an open cooking surface incorporating electric heating elements, e.g cooktop, deep fat fryer, barbecue griddle or similar".)
posted by Pinback at 6:53 PM on May 4, 2013

It's totally typical in the UK to have a switch like this for a cooker - people, don't scaremongering unnecessarily.

Having said that, there's something seriously wrong with your switch, and no, don't use it, and contact your landlord straight away.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:07 AM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

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